Sports

Historic t*tle for PSG despite toxic backdrop and the end for stars Messi and Neymar in F****h Ligue 1

Monday, May 29th, 2023 05:32 | By
Messi
Messi. PHOTO/Courtesy

Sporting history is usually made at the peak of a career or the end of a beautiful season - the outcome of something special.

For Paris St-Germain, though, it is the opposite as their historic 11th Ligue 1 title comes despite a difficult, strained and toxic backdrop.

They have become the first French club to win 11 league titles, one more than Saint-Etienne. Yet the campaign has been so tough that the usual satisfaction and feeling of pride will not reach the heights the achievement warrants.

Now, after confirming the title with a 1-1 draw at Strasbourg, Paris St-Germain face a summer of uncertainty with manager Christophe Galtier certain to depart, star players heading for the exit and a new philosophy around the club.

Nine of PSG’s 11 titles have come in the past 12 years. Their dominance may not match Bayern Munich’s in Germany with 11 in a row, or Juventus in Italy with nine in a row up to 2020, but apart from Olivier Giroud’s Montpellier in 2012, Kylian Mbappe’s Monaco in 2017 and Nicolas Pepe’s Lille in 2021, no team in France has come close to them.

Lens and Marseille gave Paris a run for their money this season and, until a few weeks ago, they looked like they could maybe even beat them to it, partly because it has not been a good year, to say the least, for the Parisians, on and off the pitch.

Galtier was appointed manager last summer to replace Mauricio Pochettino and, despite a good first half of the season in which his team were unbeaten up to the World Cup break, they crumbled at the start of 2023 with eight defeats in the first 19 games of the campaign.                                                                      

Overall, the former Lille head coach never looked good enough. He never built anything with this team, no identity, no style, while struggling to deal and control a dressing room full of superstars.

He very much used the tactic of ‘give the ball to Messi, Neymar and Mbappe and they will do the rest’. Of course, ‘the MNM’ were the team’s biggest assets, but also the soap opera of the season.

With the ball, there was clearly no doubt these three could do magical things and their numbers show it: 16 goals and 16 assists in 31 Ligue 1 matches for the Argentine, 13 goals and 11 assists in 20 Ligue 1 games for the Brazilian who was seriously injured in February and never played again this campaign, and 28 goals and five assists in 33 games for the Frenchman.

On paper and in moments of brilliance and genius, this is one of the greatest front threes ever assembled . The reality was quite different. The MNM also made the team unbalanced, incapable of pressing and disjointed. Bayern Munich punished them 3-0 on aggregate in the Champions League last 16, and arch rivals Marseille 2-1 in the French Cup last 16.

Off the pitch, it was not perfect either. Neymar was singled out by the club’s ultras who turned up unannounced at his house one evening four weeks ago to chant for him to get out of their club.

At the same time, Messi missed out on a training session to travel to Saudi Arabia for a promo shoot. It created chaos, he was suspended by the club for two weeks before apologising for his mistake and being reintegrated in the squad.

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